Pagi itu jalanan masih lengang. Namun kondisi itu tak serta merta mencuatkan takut dalam hati . Aku diturunkan oleh Dubai Bus Nomor 77 di sebuah alun-alun, Baniyas Square namanya, alun-alun yang terbentuk dari persilangan dua jalan protokol yaitu Al Maktoum Hospital Road dan Al Musalla Road. Dengan berdiri di tempat itu, berarti aku sudah berada di tepian barat Distrik Deira. Dan ketika menginjakkan kaki di Baniyas Square, tengara penting yang menarik perhatianku adalah Mahboubi Medical Centre yang tertampil dalam warna coklat dengan kelir hijau.
Langkah kaki mulai kuayun dengan mengitari zebra cross yang terlukis melingkari perempatan besar. Walaupun jalanan terlihat kosong, aku tak cukup nyali untuk mengompas jalur. Khawatir dihakimi peraturan lalu lintas yang kerap kali menyuguhkan denda, apalagi kuperhatikan ada beberapa unit CCTV yang mengintai ke arah perempatan. Menjadikanku harus sering berhenti menunggu nyala lampu hijau walaupun sebetulnya jalanan kosong melompong.
Usai menaklukkan perempatan, aku menyusuri tepian Al Musalla Road yang sunyi. Al Musalla Road sendiri merupakaan jalan dengan trotoar pembatas kecil di kedua ruasnya. Dalam langkah, sesekali aku berpapasan dengan warga lokal berumur yang sedang menikmati jogging pagi. Tak ragu mereka melemparkan senyum kepadaku, membuatku semakin berani melawan kelengangan kota.
Selanjutnya aku tiba di sebuah taman yang cukup lebar, kondisinya juga masih sunyi, Naif Park namanya. Aku terduduk di bangku beton tepat di depan taman itu. Menaruh backpack dan menyempatkan diri untuk menghirup panjang kesegaran udara pagi dan sejenak melepas pegal badan di bangku itu. Hanya saja rehatku terganggu oleh serakan poster mini seukuran kartu nama yang menawarkan jasa pijat dengan foto-foto seksi wanita Kerala….”Jangan-jangan pijat plus-plus ini mah”, batinku berprasangka buruk sembari melihat tajam foto-foto itu….Astagfirullah.
Tenaga telah terisi ulang, langkahku berlanjut dengan merubah haluan menuju timur, menyisir jalanan lain, yaitu Naif Road yang tak kalah lebar dengan Al Musalla Road. Hanya saja pembatas kedua ruas kini berganti menjadi jalur tanaman hias yang menghias sepanjang jalan.
Aku sengaja mengompas jalan supaya tiba lebih cepat di penginapan. Oleh karenanya usai melangkah sejauh tiga ratus meter di Naif Road maka aku memotong jalur dengan memasuki sebuah gang kecil demi menuju ke utara. Maka menyeliplah aku diantara bangunan-bangunan ruko dan rukan sekian lantai di salah satu sentra ekonomi milik Distrik Deira.
Strategiku untuk mencapai penginapan sangatlah mudah. Aku hanya perlu mencocokkan titik penginapan yang dijelaskan pada cetakan surat konfirmasi pemesanan kamar dengan titik biru yang terus bergerak pada layar GPS telepon pintar yang terus kuamati sedari awal.
Singkat cerita, setelah meliak-liuk di beberapa jalan tembus, akhirnya aku tiba tepat di titik yang dimaksud. Di salah satu titik perempatan berukuran sedang, aku berdiri termangu, mengamati lekat-lekat sebuah toko peralatan elektronik dengan dinding kaca yang masih tertutup rapat, tidak ada pertanda adanya penginapan sama sekali.
Aku yang memiliki waktu bicara gratis tiga menit dari SIM Card Du Mobile akhirnya mencoba menelpon nomor penginapan yang tertera di surat konfimasi pemesanan.
“tut tut tut tut….”, begitulah bunyinya…..
Instingku mengatakan bahwa aku telah kehilangan jejak….Aku sedang tidak dalam kondisi yang baik-baik saja…..
“Plaaakkkk….”, sebuah tepukan keras mendarat di pundak kananku.
“Nepalese….Nepalese?”, lelaki muda bertubuh kurus tinggi dan berbadan gelap menengadahkan telapak tangan yang kelima jarinya menunjuk ke mukaku.
“Nup….Nup…Indonesia”, aku menjawab tidak antusias.
“You like Nepalese, bro”, dia melempar senyum sembari menggelengkan kepalanya.
“Oh, thanks….”, aku menjawab sekenanya.
Lelaki muda itu pun angkat kaki dari hadapan dan aku kembali masuk dalam kebingungan…..
“Do something, Donny….Do something!”, aku memarahi diriku sendiri
Saking lelahnya, aku pun tertidur di depan layar LCD TV di depan bangku bernomor 56G yang kududuki. Itulah penggalan cerita ketika aku terbang bersama SriLankan Airline bernomor terbang UL 225. Aku begitu menikmati penerbangan selama hampir lima jam dengan jarak lebih dari 3.000 km.
Aku bersiap memasuki Dubai dengan kepuasan tersendiri ketika mendarat. Bagaimana tidak? perjalanan menuju Dubai ini terjadi dibalik usaha yang keras untuk mendapatkan e-Visa Uni Emirat Arab.
Penerbanganku ke Dubai memang berjalan lancar tetapi sebetulnya banyak hal yang sebetulnya tak mulus berlangsung jauh sebelum penerbangan itu dilakukan. Akibat menggunakan SriLankan Airlines, aku akhirnya tak bisa mengurus visa di VFS Global Kuningan. Karena agensi ini hanya melayani pembuatan e-Visa Uni Emirate Arab untuk pemilik tiket Emirates Airline dan Etihad Airways.
Aku mendatangi agensi itu di Kuningan City tepat satu bulan sebelum petualangan ke Kawasan Timur Tengah dimulai. Karena aturan agensi, setibanya di sana, aku diharuskan menitipkan laptop di sebuah konter di depan kantor VFS Global dengan biaya penitipan sebesar Rp. 50.000.
Berhasil memasuki kantornya maka bertanyalah aku kepada resepsionis yang sedang bertugas.
“Maaf, Mas….Kami tidak melayani pembuatan e-Visa untuk penerbangan menggunakan SriLankan Airlines, kami hanya melayani untuk penerbangan Etihad dan Emirates, Mas. Mohon maaf ya, Mas”
Aku melangkah gontai meninggalkan gedung itu. Dalam setiap langkah, aku telah merasa bahwa perjalananku menuju Dubai akan gagal. Aku pun telah berpikir untuk melewatkan Dubai begitu saja dan berniat untuk langsung menjadwal ulang penerbangan dan bermaksud langsung terbang ke Muscat saja seusai mendarat di Dubai. Itu artinya, aku harus mempercepat penerbangan Swiss Air dari Dubai menuju Muscat yang telah kupesan sembilan bulan sebelum keberangkatan.
Sirna sudah asa untuk mengunjungi gedung tertinggi di dunia Burj Khalifa dan Palm Jumeirah.
Ketika hendak menjadwal ulang penerbangan, pada suat malam, aku mencoba berselancar di internet untuk mencari agensi yang bisa membuatkan e-Visa UEA. Memang tidak ada agensi lokal yang memiliki otoritas untuk itu. Tetapi aku akhirnya menemukan agensi di UEA yang bisa membuatkan e-Visa.
Dari sekian banyak agensi yang menawarkan jasa itu, akhirnya aku berjodoh dengan DUBAIVISA. Melalui laman agensi itu, aku bertukar pesan dengan Mr. Salman Hyder. Setelah beberapa arahan darinya dan membaca testimoni pelanggan untuk agensi ini maka aku berani mempercayakan pembuatan e-Visa kepadanya.
Membayar jasa pebuatan sebesar 115 Dollar Amerika akhirnya aku mendapatkan e-Visa UEA dalam 29 jam. e-Visa itu aku unduh dari email yang dikirimkan oleh Mr. Salman Hyder. Dan setelah aku cek validitas e-Visa tersebut di laman resmi imigrasi pemerintah UEA, ternyata e-Visa itu memang dokumen keimigrasian yang valid. Walau sedikit mahal, tapi aku cukup bahagia karena asaku menuju Dubai akhirnya terjaga.
Apakah rugi membayar 115 Dollar Amerika?
Aku rasa tidak, toh jika kembali berhitung, harga tiket SriLankan Airlines menuju Dubai ditambahkan biaya pembuatan e-Visa tersebut ternyata masih tetap jauh lebih murah apabila dibandingkan dengan menggunakan penerbangan Emirates Airline ataupun Etihad Airways dengan pembuatan e-Visa gratis di VFS Global.
Tapi tetap saja, memilih penerbangan apapun adalah pilihan, tergantung budget masing-masing ya.
If you want to feel the sensation of riding the first commercial airline in Asia, then take Philippine Airlines, then you will automatically be honored to have boarded the oldest airline in the Asian continent. And Philippine Airlines became the 28th airline which I boarded throughout my journey as a backpacker.
Starting with a small incident that was quite embarrassing. That afternoon, the area in front of check-in counter looked vacant, then after flight number PR 685 had the status “open”, I strolled through lane which was formed by boarder tape.
And suddenly there was a loud voice….
“Hi, please queue, Sir!” a ground staff reprimanded me who automatically braked my steps. He pointed to the queue of passengers from Philippines that started from a building pole. They all laughed at me and lowered my face in shame. Trying to smile but still unable to hide the frown on my face, I passed the passengers who were almost the entire queue laughing at me. Until finally, I was standing in the queue, far behind.
Leaving the check-in area and finishing my business at the immigration counter, my steps were halted for a moment.
“Where are you from, Sir?”, I said in Indonesia language to two middle-aged men who had been holding a green passport with a picture of an eagle. “Oh, there are Indonesians here, brother,” said one of them to his friend. I just smiled to warm the situation.
“Is you taking Qatar Airways flight too, right?”, the question that may wish that three of us could fly in one plane. “I stopped by in Manila, Sir, I take Philippine Airlines flight, my final destination is Jakarta. Where are you going? “, I briefly asked before parting. They seemed busy in putting their immigration document, passport and ticket into their bag. “We are from Surabaya, Sir”, his warm smile made me feel not far from home.
According to them, they were on an assignment to Doha from their company. Whereas, I confidently replied that I had just finished backpacking alone in Middle East. “Wow, that’s great, Sir, traveling alone”, they said closing-sentence before we parted towards our respective gates.
Then I went down the escalator and passed the duty free zone around the “Lamp Bear” mascot. Continued again by taking the escalator to take the skytrain to concourse D. Finding the gate I was referring to, then I sat down while munching remaining parathas for dinner while waiting for Philippine Airlines to pick up me.
Exactly on 20:45 hours, I started boarding through aerobridge. I entered the plane from left cabin corridor. Once seated in 39K window seat, my dream of the grandeur of plane cabin that from the beginning when I was buying ticket finally disappeared. It turned out that this plane wasn’t equipped with LCD screens on each seat. You could imagine, this long flight of 7,277 km will definitely be boring. But finally I said okay to myself, “Just enjoying your flight with happiness, Donny”.
I sat next to a big woman on the left, while at the end of the row, have sat a middle-aged man of opposite stature, tall and thin. Ninety percent of passengers were of course Filipino nationals. Because this was their country’s plane.
I kept an eye on a stewardess with bob hair, purple lipstick and slender body. Who doubts the beauty of pinays, Philippines is indeed a producer of beautiful women in the world…. Hmhh.
Befora demonstrating the flight safety procedures, flight attendants distributed amenities in the form of blankets, towels, brushes and toothpaste. I started reading some of the safety procedures on this Airbus plane. Read the fight magazine and prepared for the second dinner after take-off.
“Sir, I have ordered the menu. My menu should be a Jain Meal, not Seafood Meal, Sir”, I asked to a flight attendant. “Dinner menu must be ordered 3 hours before flight, Have you ordered it?”, he answered. “Oh okay, Sir, It’s my wrong”, I replied.
After all passengers finished with their respective dinners, the cabin crew started asking every passenger who sitting in the window seat to close the window. Ah, I didn’t listen to orders, instead I noticed the pretty face of flight attendant who I had admired since the beginning of this flight. I just realized the order when a flight attendant continuously smiled and pointed at my window while raising and lowering her index finger as a signal for me to close it immediately…. The incident made the passenger next to me laugh….Was I messed up, hahaha?.
That night my flight was very smooth without turbulence. The pilot informed to all passengers that we was traveling in a plane at a speed of 800 km per hour. Extraordinary. That night I didn’t sleep well, and was anxiously waiting to arrive in Manila. On a time, I didn’t know where I was next, but flight attendants went back around cabin corridor and asked every passenger in window seat to open the window again.
This was a natural drama that I have experienced for first time. I closed the window in complete darkness and suddenly opened it in the bright light. Like a magic game in the sky, looked like that the sun seemed to appear sooner than normal.
The queue at each toilet were so long. With a stutter, I began to queue. I had to brush my teeth and wipe my face with warm water before landing. This was brushing teeth on an airplane for the first time in my life.
Shortly after sitting back down, the pilot informed that the Philippines’ flag carrier would soon land at its main hub, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The airline with the logo of two blue and red sails symbolizing the nation’s flag and an eight-ray yellow sunburst would land at Terminal 1 as planned.
The plane smoothly landed on the runway and then taxied with a quick view of the hustle and bustle of airport. I deserved to thank for the services of this 79 year old airline.
Time to transited and exploring Manila in short time.
My flight was still in the afternoon. 7 pm to be exact. So I was going to relax first until my staying time at Casper Hotel ended at noon. Since the Shubuh prayer, I rolled up again with dormitory blanket, it was very comfortable to close my eyes in a warm blanket in the midst of freezing morning. Until the alarm was jealous and shouted at me….It was nine o’clock. I have to get up, have breakfast and got ready.
After taking a shower I folded my clothesline which was still damp, I would definitely place it in a separate plastic bag in my backpack later. I properly separated every piece of equipment which had been dismantled five days ago. Toiletries, t-shirts, camera, tripod, snacks and trousers were packed in each plastic bag.
Followed by chewing parathas made by GRANDMA Bakery and Sweets along with two pieces of my own hand-made beef eye eggs.
Exactly 12:30 hours, I was ready to go…..
I hugged and shook hands with three of my new Pakistani friends and family who worked at hotel. After saying hello, I went back to hometown.
As usual I was standing at the bus shelter just to the left of hotel gate.
“It’s time to try Free Doha Metrolink Shuttle Services, coincidentally, my Karwa Smart Card has already run out of balance,” I thought to myself. But the Metrolink bus never stopped when I tried to stop it. When stopping the third bus, the Metrolink driver pointed to a sign pole at the end of block. He pointed to himself then pointed to me then pointed to sign pole. I quickly interpreted the signal: “Run there, I’m waiting for you!”. I spontaneously ran, when the bus overtook me and stopped at the pole.
“Good morning, friends. You must stop this Metrolink in its shelter, Okay!. Tommorow if you want to use it, you must wait at this pole”, he said as he quickly stepped on Metrolink pedal.
“Oh okay, Sir”, I said understanding, he didn’t seem to know that I was going to my hometown and the next day I was no longer in Doha.
“Where will this metrolink stop?” I asked the Nigerian driver.
“It will stop in Oqba Ibn Nafie Station, It’s free, if you want back to hotel just wait this bus in Oqba Ibn Nafie Station again, okay!”, he answered in detail, apparently he knew I was a free seeker traveler….Hahaha.
Ten minutes later, I arrived at Oqba Ibn Nafie Station…..
I no longer have change and I also knew that the ticketing vending machine didn’t accept large denominations. I went straight to customer service which was occupied by Filipino staff. I meant to exchange money, lucky they provide small denominations. I was willing to convert the Riyal into small denominations which would certainly affect its exchange rate to US Dollars at the airport, more smaller the denomination, more cheaper the price. But that was okay, there wasn’t other option.
I started taking the Doha Metro Red Line to Hamad International Airport T1 Station. Traveling in a distance of 10 km, not passing by a single station, I arrived in twenty minutes.
Hamad International Airport T1 Station is a transportation shelter which is connected to Hamad International Airport by a luxurious pedestrian bridge. This refrigerated and roof-covered pedestrian bridge has glass walls and features with travelator. Straddling the main routes of vehicles around Hamad International Airport. Also passing by iconic venues such as the HIA Mosque with its fantastic minaret.
Had time to leave the connector for a moment, I was passed on to the airport parking lot which was quite large, then I was going back into a connector to the main terminal building.
Walking for ten minutes I finally arrived at Departure Gate. It was still 14:05 hours, I still needed to wait about two and a half hours for the check-in counter to open. I went straight to the check-in area to find a comfortable waiting area and at the same time to rest.
At the end of my visitation to Msheireb Museum, I explored with a middle-aged man from France. I slowly lead him into room after room.
Radwani House was an original depiction of a typical Qatari house built in the 1920s on the border of Qatar’s oldest districts namely Al-Jassra and Msheireb. This house was bought by Ali Akbar Radwani on December 5, 1936 and lived with his family for more than 70 years.
The Radwani House has been enlarged and remodeled from the original building over time and was one of the most important historical buildings in Doha. This house showed the extraordinary history of Qatari life and lifestyle and illustrated the adaptation to vast societal changes in Qatar during the twentieth century.
Special research on Radwani House was carried out in the winter of 2012-2013 by a team of archaeologists from University College London Qatar. This was the first archaeological investigation conducted in the whole of Qatar.
The discovery of other foundations in this building indicated that this house had undergone many renovations throughout its life, it seemed that a well was found which, if you looked at the initial layout of the house, this well was located outside the main building, precisely in a narrow alley.
It was also known that this house originally consisted of two buildings, which after these two parts were purchased by the same owner, the two parts were combined. Both ends of the alley were closed so as to produce a wider house shape.
Excavations at Radwani House uncovered several objects that provided clues to daily life in this house. Found incense burners from 1920-1930, a series of discarded pearl shells that were the result of collecting sea shells at low tide, coffee cups, glasses, jewellery, clothing and toys.
Radwani House was renovated in the early 1940s to produce the house you see today:
Even though the yard looked spacious, Ridwani House still showed a concern for privacy. The outside of the house looked windowless. The window was only on the wall facing the courtyard. Meanwhile, the courtyard itself was surrounded by houses on all sides.
Meanwhile, the part of the main gate which would lead people to the courtyard must first turned 90 degrees to ensure that the courtyard was not visible to outsiders.
The arrangement of the Radwani House rooms also showed its own peculiarities. There were rooms which function very specifically liked kitchens and warehouses. Some of them were built as functional spaces.
This was the last destination during my visitation in Qatar. Then of course, I had to immediately leave Qatar.
Museum Staff : “Hello, how many part of museums which you have visited, Sir?”
Me : “Just two….Company House and Bin Jelmood House, Ms”.
Museum Staff : “Oh, you’re on the right step. Now you are in Mohammed Bin Jassim House. It will tell you about old Msheireb and the modern one”.
Me: “Sounds pretty good”.
Museum Staff : “Is that your own camera? Are you professional? “
Me: “Yes, my camera. I’m a travel blogger. Is it okay to bring inside?”
Museum Staff : “Oh sure. Enjoy your visitation, Sir”.
This gallery was dedicated to Msheireb natives. Collections depicted everyday life in Msheireb that can be remembered by Qatari youth as well as foreign workers working in the oil-rich country.
In the early days of Qatari civilization, people used desert to raise livestock, but over time they created a special area for housing. History began when residents from Al-Jassra established a settlement in Msheireb. The construction of their houses initially used stone and clay before introducing gypsum and bricks.
“Religious Events and Celebrations”Session
In the early days of Msheireb, residents often celebrated religious holidays, such as Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. Festivals were held to celebrate it, restaurants would be open until well past midnight and houses would open their doors.
Residents used drums to wake people up for sahur in the morning and used them to sing religious music at night. Then, Eid was determined by the crescent moon seen in Saudi Arabia. At that time Saudi Arabia did not have radio and television broadcasts. News would be obtained by Qatari citizens from Bahrain.
During Eid, residents will dance Tanbora, Laywa, Fajery, and Haban. There were so many traditional dances at that time.
Doha’s first electric generator was installed at the Company House in the late 1930s. Then in the mid-1950s, a power station was built in the city and underground power lines began to be laid. The path which was through by underground cable line was then given the name Al-Kahraba Street (“Al-Kahraba” itself means “electricity”).
Then Al-Kahraba Street was bustling with shops selling electric tools.
It was said that Doha citizens neatly sat in their chairs when their Emir Sheikh Salman cut a pipe to inaugurate their first power plant.
Al-Kahraba Street was Qatar lifeblood. Throughout the day and night during Ramadan month, the street was fully light. And Al-Rayyan people came here just to see the street.
It was narrated by a resident named Hassan Rasheed that the first television he bought came from Al-Kahraba street with the brand “Andrea”, it was shaped like a small cupboard, the cupboard had to be opened first to see the screen.
“Shopping and Eating” Session
Between 1950-1990, the Msheireb District flourished and was teeming with commercial buildings. Many new and first-time businesses appeared there such as the first hotel, the first bank, the first pharmacy, the first coffee shop and the first cold drink place. Residents could buy supplies and equipment, television, saris and shoes here. Tailors, barbershops, opticians, butchers, doctors, dentists, chicken shops and cafes greatly contributed to enliven Msheireb.
A resident said that the streets of Msheireb were very lively, there was the Al-Nasr Fountain, a pharmacy owned by Hussain Al-Kazim, Lebanese shops and restaurants, the Al-Tilmeethe library and bookstore owned by Abdullah Naima. At the corner of street there was a tailor who specializes in suits. The first bank in Doha was The Ottoman Bank and the main landmark at that time was The Bismillah Hotel.
Resident Abdullatif Al-Nadaf said: “If you need something that isn’t in Doha then you will find it on Al-Kahraba Street”.
“Schools, Healthcare and Security” Session
To ensure Qatari children could contribute to the development of Qatar’s oil industry and the nation’s economic growth, in September 1947 the first modern school named Al Islah Al Mohamadia was established. The Bin Jelmood House was used as a Qatar police station in the 1950s. The legendary hospital in Qatar was Rumaillah Hospotal which had been in operation since 1956, opened with 200 beds with ambulance services and outpatient facilities.
“Msheireb Downtown Doha” Session
Next, a session on Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD) was described as a Sustainable City Regeneration Project in the Msheireb Region.
Under the leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Msheireb Properties which was a subsidiary of Qatar Foundation was building urban districts where Qatari citizens and expatriates would live, work and socialize.
In this MDD session we would learn how patrons, planners, architects and engineers carefully reinterpreted Msheireb’s original architecture, sustainable construction with community traditions, commercialization and innovation to create a modern area but still firmly rooted in history and created a sense of place.
Old Msheireb was very popular with business activities. Shops and restaurants were built along the main road. Making this district a popular place to live and for anyone to visited. Since the first shops opened in the early 1950s, Doha had played an important role, not only for Qatar’s economic growth but even for the global economy. Doha was currently a promising business destination and tourist destination for travelers around the world. And Msheireb Downtown Doha would play an important role in maintaining the city’s commercial prominence.
At the southern end of Al-Kahraba Street had become a new business district with offices, banks, restaurants and cafes. And within this business district, Doha Metro would take passengers to West Bay and Hamad International Airport.
It was estimated that when the Msheireb Downtown Doha development project was completed, more than 2,000 residents would occupy an area of 31 hectares. Residents would mingle with thousands of workers, commercial consumers and tourists.
Although the scale of MDD was very broad, it would evoke the intimacy of Old Msheireb. The pedestrian path would be drectly connected to Souq Waqif. The entire MDD would be connected to a network of underground roads and underground parking which would make the street area very friendly-pedestrian.
MDD’s tradition of innovation also provided solutions to Old Msheireb’s three challenges, namely traffic congestion, waste management and water conservation. MDD would have 12,000 underground parking slots which would clear congestion and create a pedestrian-friendly environment. The state-of-the-art waste disposal system would recycle waste from the source and would be disposed of via underground pipes. Around six million liters of recycled water would be used daily to flush toilets, irrigate crops, and would cool buildings in MDD.
The same innovation would produce hot water and electricity through thousands of solar cells installed on each building’s roof.
There were seven steps that make buildings at MDD unique:
1. The continuity of the past, present and future through timeless urban design motifs.
2. Harmony and diversity through architectural language which was accepted by all.
3. Informal setting of buildings reflecting the original view of Msheireb
4. A living environment which provided privacy, security, indoor and outdoor areas, a family spirit and community care.
5. Creating a vibrant street life that could make pedestrians comfortable and provided shaded spaces.
6. Maximum comfort with minimum energy consumption through traditional and modern technology by utilizing energy and conserving natural resources.
7. The sustainability of Qatari design through a new architectural language that connected with past designs.
The design and layout of old Msheireb buildings respected the environment by minimizing the effects of the sun, maximizing ventilation and using local materials. These traditional practices were still being implemented in the development of MDD. The design and layout of MDD were made by utilizing the sun’s shade and the coastal breeze. Construction materials were taken from local sources. Renewable energy utilized solar panels on the roof of the building. Clean water would be saved by efficient use of every faucet and shower. The recycled water would be used for irrigation and other purposes.
MDD would reduce people’s dependence on vehicles. For example, this district would be friendly to pedestrians, it would be easy, safe and comfortable when walking from one place to another in the shade of trees and interspersed with parks. The district would provide routes for cyclists and buses. Doha Metro would connect Msheireb with other regions. Centralized waste recycling would eliminate the need for garbage trucks entering the city.
The second part of Msheireb Museum is Bin Jelmood House.
Who is Bin Jelmood?….He was a famous slave trader in Doha during the slavery era. He was often known as “The Rock”, referring to his convictions and stubbornness at the time.
This edition is more serious than Company House edition, friends….Be prepared to read more solemnly.
At the beginning of Bin Jelmood House exploration, I entered an audio-visual room which narrated the time of slave trading from Africa to Europe.
At that time, slaves wore special accessories in the form of bracelets called Manilla and it was a historical fact that one of four Athenians would become slaves and worked in the olive fields. In another part of the world, Syria, there were slavery contracts between the buyers and sellers of slaves.
“The Indian Ocean World” Sessiom.
In the maritime history of Indian Ocean, goods and slaves were traded between countries in Africa and the Gulf region. Meanwhile, between India and East Asia, goods and slaves were traded via the Silk Road (this route had two routes, land and sea). One of the pictures in the museum showed the export of oxen (oxen) from Madagascar to Mauritius.
Events in the eastern hemisphere were also depicted in black and white photographs, namely the activities of Dutch East Indies on the spices export at Jakarta Port in 1682, while in India, trading ships carried opium from Calcutta to China.
“Slavery in The Indian Ocean World ”Session
Slavery was very prevalent in the pre-Islamic period, where slaves from Egypt, the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa were sold to Mecca and Baghdad which were the main slave markets in the Middle East. One of stories was about a famous slave named Antarah bin Shaddad Al-Absi who was born by an Ethiopian slave with father who be a Bani Abas leader. Then the story of Abdullah Ibn Abi Quhafa (Abu Bakr Ash-Shidiq) who became an important figure in the history of slave liberation, one of the famous slaves freed by him was Bilal bin Rabah Al-Habashi. Then Islam came down in Middle East and forbade slavery between human beings.
Some of the methods of slavery around Indian Ocean were through war, punishment for crimes, invasions, kidnapping, selling family members and debt bondage.
“Slaves’Status in The Indian Ocean World”Session
During the Abassid Empire (Abasiy), the Mamluk Army (Mamluk Army) was formed from slaves of Balkans, Caucasus and Europe. This army was very famous during the rule of Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt in the 12th century. There was also the Janissaries Troop formed by the Ottoman Empire in Turkey consisting of youth from Christian families who were trained in religious and military principles.
In the mid-19th century, clove plantations were highly developed in East Africa. This resulted in the enslavement of 1.6 million people there. In this section, the museum displayed a sword belonging to a Zanzibar slave at that time.
There was also a story about Tippu Ti (Hamed bin Muhammed Al-Murjebi), the owner of seven clove plantations and 10,000 slaves. This businessman from Swahili-Zanzibari Ivory captured and sold slaves on the orders of King Leopold of Belgium who was the authority on Congo.
Another heart-wrenching story was about the Persian King Bahram Gur who stepped on his favorite slave girl named Azada from a horse, simply because she did not value his hunting abilities. In ancient times slaves would only be guaranteed their life if they were integrated into their master’s family, this could be done if slaves were able to communicate in thir master’s language and were willing to embrace their master’s religion.
Five Rooms Describing Slavery in Qatar.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Qatar’s population was only 27,000 and the fact was that one in six of its citizens was a slave. The ownership of slaves was a guarantee for pearl exporting businessmen as well as importers, that their goods would be safe in the harsh desert voyages and treacherous sea voyages.
In 1868, Sheikh Mohammed bin Thani signed a protection treaty from British Government. Meanwhile in 1872, the Ottoman Empire established a military garrison in Doha until the end of World War I. After their departure in 1916, the British began to exert influence in Qatar through their base in Bahrain.
In the 18th century, Qatar had a positive impact on global economic developments. Mainly because of the increasing world demand for pearls. In order to increase the pearl catch, there was slavery of workers in the pearl catching industry in Qatar.
Meanwhile, at the end of the 19th century, slaves were employed in Qatar, taken from East Africa and the Red Sea, thousands more were imported from Zanzibar, slaves were brought by Dhow Boat across the Indian Ocean to Qatar. At the beginning of the 20th century, because of the opposition to slavery in East Africa, slaves began to be taken from Baluchistan.
The slave population in Qatar continued to be maintained by their masters by marrying their fellow slaves which of course would give birth to children as slaves as well.
The effects of the increased capture of slaves in Africa were disturbing to general community in the region. This was what causes endless wars in Africa.
At the time of slaves capturing, slaves would be chained and walked from Mozambique, Congo, Malawi and Zambia as far as 1,000 miles to Kilwa coast in Tanzania, sometimes before reaching the shore, they would be killed by the robbers, then slaves who survived then for weeks even months would sail for sale to Middle East and Yemen.
In Zanzibar’s slave market, female slaves would be dressed in fine clothes and jewelry so that they were sold at a high price. Buyers would usually check their physical health and beauty before buying them. Even slaves would be given new names such as Faida (profit), Baraka (blessing) and Mubaroka (blessed). To illustrate nominally, in 1926, a 24-year-old male slave diver in Qatar could be purchased for 1,210 Rupees.
Slaves in Doha and Al Wakra, some of whom lived together with their masters, ate the same food and wore the same clothes. Some of them separately live next to the house provided by the employer.
In daily life, slave girls would work to prepare food and took care of the children. While male slaves after the pearl shell hunting season was over, would work looking for firewood, breaking stones, transporting water, and being security guards for city officials.
Then there was social acculturation, slaves who initially were the majority of non-Muslims accepted the presence of Islam in their lives, then they embraced it. Likewise, the children of slaves will automatically become Muslims because of the religion of their parents.
But their origin culture remain attached and could not be abandoned. Slaves from West Africa, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco often performed the Zar Ritual when their master was asleep at night. This Zar ritual was considered to be able to give spirit and enthusiasm to get physical and mental health.
Over time, it turned out that the demand for slaves increased throughout Qatar when the pearl industry became booming and was needed by the world.
In practice, slave pearl divers would work from dawn to sunset. A small basket would be draped around their neck to store about 8-10 oysters they picked up from seabed. They would dive with an average time of 90 minutes and could dive up to 50 times per day.
Year after year, Qatar’s economic uncertainty caused its population to decrease from 27,000 to 16,000 and only 4,000 of them were still interested in working in pearl industry. Slaves began to be sent to oil fields to work and their wages would be shared with their masters.
“The Richness of Diversity”Session
The migration of slaves over hundreds years in Qatar contributed to the formation of Qatari culture in terms of cuisine, music and language. Qatar people then know Indian Biryani, Levantine Mansaf, Spanish Paella, and Balaleet. Other cultures which developed include playing Mancala and decorating the body with Qatari Henna.
Qatar had long been the meeting point of people migration who carried their respective cultures because it was located at the crossroads of Indian Ocean trade routes. In fact, many people who initially only stopped by ended up settling in Qatar.
“Knowing Our Ancestors”Session
Included in this session were the subject of DNA and its inheritance, the anatomy taught by Avicenna, the human genome and the reading of DNA sequences that could help humans to treat certain diseases based on this information.
That genes also affected blood type, hair and eye color. In some studies it was said that genes would make humans become super tasters (tasting something bitter than normal people) and non-tasters (not sensitive to taste).
Back to slavery…
In the late 19th century, Britain began to initiate the reduction of slavery in Middle East. They often rescued slave ships and brought them to British territory. This was because, since the end of the 18th century, the people of Western Europe through their parliaments cast the opinion on the abolition of slavery.
There was the right moment when British signed the Qatar protection agreement on November 3, 1916. This was used by British to ask Sheikh Abdullah Bin Jassim Al-Thani to stop the practice of slavery in Qatar as a condition. But Qataris objected to this abolition.
The success of slavery abolition was only effective when Qatar succeeded in exporting its oil abroad. With the profits from oil trading, Qatari government was able to pay compensation money to slave owners to free their respective slaves. And finally, in April 1952, the practice of slavery was officially banned in all of Qatar.
After the ban, many slaves were granted Qatari citizenship by the Emir and many of them were accepted to work with full salaries in Qatar’s oil companies.
“Qatar, a Pioneer in Personalized Healthcare”Session
Qatar was a country which was committed to genetic research and was a pioneer in personalized medicine, which was a management of patient care in the medicine world based on patient genotype information, so that an evaluation could be carried out to determine an appropriate treatment for disease type which patient were suffering from.
Qatar was making progress by establishing Qatar Biobank, a place to store health information and biological samples from its citizens. This biobank was very helpful in the Qatar Genome Program launched by the government. This program was funded by Qatar Foundation through Qatar National Research Fund and was also funded by the Ministry of Health.
Qatar was also home to research centers such as Qatar Biomedical Research Institute at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar University Biomedical Research Center and Weill Cornell Medicine.
Qatar also had a National Diabetes Center, a National Premarital Screening and Counseling Program, and a Qatar Newborn Screening Program.
You need to know that around 27 million people have become victims of modern slavery around the world. This type of slavery was caused by rampant human trafficking.
Some surprising facts include:
2.5 million people were in forced labour, including sexual exploitation.
Human trafficking was the most profitable international crime, along with drugs and arms trafficking.
Profits from human trafficking per year reached 31.6 billion US Dollars.
The majority of human trafficking victims were 18-24 years old.
1.2 million children were trafficked every year.
From 190 countries in the world, 161 countries have a role in this human trafficking. Either as a source, destination or as a transit country.
Political and humanitarian crises often place vulnerable groups (women and children) from less developed areas in human trafficking risk.
Many children in the 1990s were employed in factories, fishing boats, mining, agricultural land and underage women were employed in sexual industry. They work more than normal hours, sometimes without pay, living only with minimal food and minimal housing.
Then many organizations have sprung up in the world which were moving to end human trafficking, they hold meetings with governments in countries which still have modern slavery practices, they meet labor agencies around the world to work together to fight the practice of modern slavery.
Qatari House for Lodging and Human Care was one of many organizations which protected human trafficking victims. This organization provided health services, psychiatric consultation, legal assistance, rehabilitation, as well as cooking and sewing courses.
Qatar was the first and largest financier in UN Global Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. Qatar as also funding The Arab Initiative for Capacity Building in Combating Human Trafficking which was a collaboration between UNODC and the Arab League.
Finally…. I couldn’t believe I was at the end of this session at Bin Jelmood House. I took the time to entering the toilet, took pictures of the lobby and courtyard, then thanked all the staff at reception desk when I was about to leave the museum.
It turned out that not only me, all tourists were confused to find the entrance. That was what a male staff who came out to called me and directed me to entering the museum.
“Welcome to Msheireb Museum, you should know that this museum consists of four parts. They are Company House which you are currently visiting. In west of this building is Bin Jelmood House, while in east there is Radwani House. Another one, across that street (pointing at Bin Jalmood Street), is Mohammed Bin Jassim House. To make it easier for understanding all stories inside the museum, please install the Msheireb Museums application. You can be guided by this application. Please write your identity in the guest book, and welcome to Msheireb Museums“, his memorization was smoothly conveyed.
“Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir. Where are you come from, sir?”, I briefly answered and then asked.
“Bangladesh”, he answered with a smile.
Yes, the learning began…..
If you want to know about….
How did Qatar’s economy rise from adversity……and how did they struggle to find oil……
This is where it is.
So in the final episode of my adventure in Qatar, the content of this article will be very serious. Let’s learn about Qatar history!.
The history is begin……
First time, at the entrance of museum was the logo of a well-known oil company indicating that the establishment and financing of this museum was sponsored by Qatar Shell.
After passing the reception desk, it was explained in an article that this building was the home of Hussain Al-Naama, manager of Doha Port, built in 1920, then leased by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (a British company which holding an exclusive contract for oil exploration at Qatar) on 1935 and was used as its headquarters for two decades. Once upon a time, the search and exploration of Qatar’s oil started from this house.
It was said that these workers would back home one time in a month to received their salaries, then were allowed to back to their homes in just one day to meet their families, after that, they had to return to the oil fields to work. This museum was dedicated to these pioneers who interpret endurance, sacrifice and commitment to build Qatar.
Dating back to the 1920s, when Qatar was a country that depended on trade, fisheries and pearl fishing. And this country was already on the verge of economic collapse due to the First World War, the Great Depression of 1929 and ever since pearls have been cultivated in Japan.
You needed to know that catching pearls was a risky job. In 1929, there was a hurricane that sank 80% of ships in Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar. This storm killed five thousand people.
Entering the 1940s, when the Second World War broke out, Qatar’s oil exploration efforts had stalled. This made all Qataris hopeless again, so they have thought of going back to sea and looking for pearls.
Luckily in 1946, a year after the end of Second World War, the British returned to Qatar to continue exploration. When they arrived, when was the tanker unable to dock in Zikrit Waters because it was shallow. So a new export terminal was built in Umm Said, south of Doha. Then continued with the construction of oil pipelines from Umm Said to Dukhan. The relentless effort finally made Qatar successful in exporting its first oil on December 31, 1949. In subsequent developments, oil production in Qatar sharply increased from what was originally under 50,000 Barrel/day in 1949 to more than 2,000,000 Barrel/day in 2010….Wow, that was cool.
The next important chapter, Qatar gained independence from Britain on September 3, 1971. Three years later, the Qatar General Petroleum Company was formed. And in 1977, Qatar General Petroleum Company and Shell Qatar Ltd. was nationalized to become Qatar Petroleum, so that since then oil and gas were fully controlled by the state.
Qatar was a lucky country. Shortly after independence, a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) field was discovered in the north of its territory. To explore this, the Qatar Gas Company was founded in 1984 and their first LNG export took place in 1996 to Japan.
In the back room of the Company House, there was a room entitled “Open Storage” which displayed some of the equipment used by the oil company workers in the early days of its operation. There were tennis rackets, hockey sticks, rugby balls, radios, vehicle wheels, food baskets, typewriters, packaged pineapples with the “Marvel” brand and soft drinks with the “Namlite” brand.
In the back room, a room entitled “The Courtyard: Life as a Worker” was designed, in which several white sculptures were built which visualize Qataris working for a British oil company.
Walking towards the exit, there was an “Interview” room where the Msheireb Museum team interviewed Qatari pioneers to collect useful information as references, research materials and exhibition materials in this museum.
There was also a “Share Your Story” booth that displayed testimonials from pioneer family members about their hard work and life when they were employees of the oil company.
In the same room there was also a “Contemporary Voices” booth. This three-sided screen described the stories of pioneers in a documentary.
And at the end of museum, several profiles of pioneer oil workers awere displayed in the “Pioneers’ Stories” room. It was narrated that Muhammad bin Muhammad Muftah who worked as a telephone receiver and driver, Jasim bin Qroun as a rigger, Bu Abbas who was in charge of driving an international standard truck to carry geologists, Thamir Muftah who was in charge of handling electricity affairs, Jassim bin Muhammad Jaber Al- Naameh in charge of handling the generator, Ibrahim bin Saleh Bu Matar Al-Muhannadi who served as a houseboy, and finally Mansour bin Khalil Al-Hajiri who became the first employee at an oil company and served as a guide, because he was a person who understood everything very well. Qatar region and able to find the place you were looking for even in the dark or fog.
Finished exploring the Company House, I exited at back door. I had a chance to stop at Empirecof, a small coffee shop located in the courtyard of this museum.
After having coffee, I took the time to eat my lunch in the Company House yard. In this park there was a free water station which could be used to drink for free…. Wow, Qatar.
My visit to the Company House was really over, it was time for me to head to another part of Msheireb Museum.
I left Doha Sports City just before sunset. Exit from Villaggio Mall, went to Al Aziziyah Station, which was only 100 meters from door number four of this famous shopping mall.
At the station entrance…..there was a slight conversation between me and a traveler.
“Hello, do you want to go with the metro?”, said the curly youth, white skin and a typical Arab face but a little shorter than me.
“Yes, brother,” I said briefly.
“Use this ticket!, I will go back with the bus, You can use it”, he handed me the ticket.
“Oh, No, thanks. I will buy a single journey ticket at downstair”, I politely refused because I had a wrong guess, I thought he was selling his ticket to me. I knew it was a Standard Day Pass ticket for 4 Rial.
“Brother, just take it. I don’t need more because I will use the bus”, He seemed to hurry and slipped the ticket into my right hand.
Oh my God….Turned out he gave it away for free. “Thank you very much, brother”, I briefly said.
“I’m Donny from Indonesia, what is your name, brother?”, I asked before separating.
“Said from Algeria …”, he smiled as he adjusted his green backpack and then hurriedly left me.
“Thank you, Said”, I started down the escalator to Doha Metro platform.
Pursuing the MRT, which was ready to going, a Filipino officer ordered me to entering the metro via luxurious Goldclub class wagon and then moved to the Standard class wagon behind it. Wow….. the Goldclub wagon offered a luxurious single seat like an airplane business seat, armrest seats which were separated from each other in a long line facing each other. Sitting in a standard wagon, I was taken along Gold Line to Souq Waqif Station, which was quite close to Al Ghanim Bus Station. I would take Karwa Bus number 12 to hotel.
I still remembered a message from a hotel staff from Islamabad that tonight they invited me to cook together and ate their country’s signature dish, namely Pakistani White Pulao-a rice dish mixed with chopped carrots, vegetables and beans-.
After taking a bath, it was true, they went into my room to hijack me and were taken to kitchen to join a impromptu chefs of Casper Hotel.
The fourth dawn I felt in Qatar. I was a little lazy because fatigue and boredom became my new enemy. Towards ten in the morning, I started leaving for Al Ghanim Bus Station. Initially planned to head to Islamic Museum of Art. Oh, but….As soon as I arrived at the terminal, I thought again. My wallet stopped my intentions, it led me to find free destinations to save my budget.
Trying to surf in internet by sitting relaxed in the terminal, I finally knew where I must to go. Msheireb….Yes, Msheireb!
There was Msheireb Museum which was open for free to tourists there. I thought further….After visiting the museum, I was able to explore Msheireb Downtown Doha to see the concept of this planned city.
You needed to know….MDD (Msheireb Downtown Doha) was a replacement city for Mushayrib District whose development was planned in great detail.
I wandered along Ali Bin Abdullah Street, past the Gold Souq -a building with ten curved glass windows, a center for buying and selling gold-, passed the cash office of Qatar National Bank (QNB) Souq Waqif and then turned right at an intersection.
Before actually arriving at Msheireb Museum, my steps were stopped under an iconic building, which I myself understood from its shape that it was a defensive building or a fort. Later, I came to know it as Al Kort Fort.
Also known as Doha Fort, this 140 year old building was built during the Ottoman Empire as a police station. Thirty-five years from its founding, this fort was turned into a prison at the end of the reign of the Ottoman Empire.
Then history changed again when Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, the third Emir of Qatar, rebuilt this fort as crime rates soared around Souq Waqif. It was said that a group of famous thieves appeared in the market area. So this fort became the security center of Souq Waqif at that time. In accordance with the characteristics of a desert fort, the building was square in shape with a rectangular tower at a corner and three round towers at the other three corners.
Unfortunately, this fort was still under renovation so I couldn’t get into it. But that was okay, because I could quickly visit the Msheireb Museum.
Do you want to know what the Msheireb Museum is like?…. It was a long story, you knew…. Be prepared to read with patience!
It was 2pm, there was still a little time before the chilly afternoon breeze arrived. I purposely put this destination as the closing of my third day exploration in Qatar. From the outside, nothing flashy, nothing special, it was just an ordinary building which had been open to the public since 2006. However, the large nameboard titled Gondolania Theme Park at the gate was able to convey an image in your head about what tourism concepts were offered in it.
I replayed my trip memories, starting to unravel the memory of three years ago, when for the first time, I was fascinated by the shape of gondola which was visible by my naked eye at The Venetian, a famous shopping mall and casino in East Asia, Macau to be exact.
Yups…. I ended my visit at Doha Sports City that afternoon by visiting Villaggio Mall. Mall on the outskirts of Al Waab Street (located between Hyatt Plaza and Sports City ) was developed by Gondolania Entertainment, therefore, the concept of gondola tourism in Venice was adopted in this famous shopping center.
It was designed in 150 meter long indoor canal complete with its gondola. The main retailer at Villaggio Mall was Carrefour, but this shopping center also accommodated 200 stores selling well-known American, British, Italian and German brands.
Come on, you who liked shopping, please stopped by here!
Apparently the word “I LOVE (LOVE was symbolized by the heart)” which was famous in tourism promotion of every nation had also spread in Qatar. The nameboard greeted me in a hall right next to the entrance. Red and white, that was the dominant color, matched the colors of Qatar flag. Red jagged white, or white jagged red, I didn’t know?
Leaving the glitz of main hall, I started down the mall corridor with fantasizing about the artificial blue sky on its roof, while the classic three-pointed black pillars were placed in consistent distances. Cafes and shops were nealy lined up in the left and right…..Mc Donalds, KFC, Pinkberry, Ocean Basket, Donuts & Coffee, Dunias, PF. Clarks, Applebees and Ognam were some of the culinary outlets which I could quickly find when I walked.
I just followed the path which was designed by mall operator, until I finally found a room titled GONDOLANIA, a Funfair Theme Park which was the mainstay of shopping center. You could play Bungee Trampoline, Ferris Wheel, Viking, Catterpillar, Drop Tower, Roller Coaster, Chipmunks Rides, Carousel, Arcade Games, Ping Pong Toss, Ride on Robot, Dino Land, Toy Crain, Deal or No Deal Dance Reco, Basketball Games , Bump Car, Dragon Punch King of Hammer, Lazy River, you could also shop for toys at Toys4me and had fun at Gondolania Ice Rink.
Leaving the theme park, I was still curious to find what I’d been looking for….Finally, the Venice-style Gondola seemed to be rowing in the distance. A long canal branched through the giant space of shopping mall. Several tourists seemed to be queuing up to ride the gondola with Philippines rowers.
Visiting Villaggio Mall for a moment, had killed my curiosity to see the duplication of Venice Gondola tours for second time. It didn’t take long, only thirty minutes to explore.
Hmmhh, ouch….I remembered my promise to fulfill the invitation of hotel staff where I was staying. I rushed back, that afternoon I would cook Pakistani food with them. I thought the agenda would make me feel more relaxed after seventeen days of wandering away from home.
My quick steps towards Al Aziziyah Station were stopped by a young man who was shorter than me. I was taken aback….What was this:
Said: “Hello, do you want to go with the metro?”
Me: “Yes, Brother”.
Said:”Use this ticket, I will go back by bus, So you can use it”.
Me: “Oh, thank you”.
It would be stupid if I refused. Before he left, I had time to ask to get information about his origin….Algeria, North Africa….“My name is Said”, he said after I mentioned my name to him.
I grabbed the ticket from him….”Oh this, the One Day Pass. He took the MRT all day apparently. Said is smart, instead of wasting it, he gave it to me….Hehehe” I thought understanding the reason Said gave me the ticket. An unexpected meeting that bestows sustenance. Now I was going back with free of charge.
Long story short, I took the Doha Metro Gold Line, stopped at Souq Waqif Station and continued with Karwa Bus No. 12 to the inn.